Population Health is Our Christian Duty

{This was a paper I submitted last week. I really enjoyed writing on this topic because it is easily my greatest passion as a member of the body. I’m so excited to close this chapter on my education (for awhile) and step out on mission in my community. Regardless of how grim things may appear, Christ always has the power to move, He just needs willing warriors. I hope this gets you fired-up.} 

Biblical Support for Population Health

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7, KJV). Was this awareness the beginning of a physical attack that still wages today? According to Scripture, God created man in his image; He looked upon his creation and deemed it “very good” (Genesis 1:31, KJV). Prior to the fall, Genesis 2:25 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”(KJV). The shame that came with biting into fruit from the tree of knowledge still lingers today and manifests itself in so many ways regarding our health.

I am a personal trainer and operate a faith based wellness blog. When I examine the multidimensional attack on our physical, spiritual, and emotional health, I can’t help but reflect on that moment in the garden; that moment when the eyes became aware of the flesh and the feelings of shame were introduced. It paints a far larger picture of health. It indicates that health is not just diet, exercise, or a number on a scale, but rather it is deeply tied to our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Poor health has the ability to derail a spiritual mission, and render a society useless against supernatural assaults. For the body is the first gift we receive as we enter this world, and it is the last gift we surrender as we transition to eternity. It is the vehicle for which we carry out His plan, His purpose, and our unique piece in the story He is telling. The following will examine this concept in depth using the support of Biblical Scripture. I will present and analyze the blueprint for health that I believe our Father so generously wove into His Word. Finally, I will solidify my stance that population health should be part of the Christian mission.

The Spiritual Importance of Health

            Given the health epidemic that this nation is facing, I believe it is vitally important to consider spiritual warfare as the root cause. As previously noted, our bodies are our vehicles for this life, and while the devil is keen on capitalizing on external situations in our lives, he is the controller of flesh and that will always remain his first line of attack. He resides in the extremes that bound our physical health. We see it in gluttony, just as we see it in vanity. Proverbs 23:30, “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh” (KJV). Gluttony does not only spawn excess, it is the father of bulimia and anorexia as well. For at the heart of gluttony is a lie. The lie tells us that the void that must be filled with God can be replaced with the instant yet fleeting comfort of food, or the beauty that can only be defined by the Creator can be substituted with the false gratification that comes from fitting into a severely distorted and ever changing image of beauty. In an instant gratification and excess driven society, how do we continue to miss that the inventor of theses lusts is at the heart of it all?

The good news is God provided us with a blueprint for health, as well as warnings against this assault in His Word. Indeed, there is not a current physical, spiritual, or emotional health issue that God did not provide an answer for. He is very clear in his instruction: “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, KJV). This includes our temples. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (ESV). As Christians we must not minimize the importance of our health, as by doing so we are crippling our spiritual lives as well. My personal motto is, “temple stronger to serve Him longer”. This is a major part of the Christian calling that is not to be ignored, and should arguably be one of this nation’s Christian’s chief concerns.

Physical Health

In terms of physical nutrition, God provides a wealth of knowledge in the first book of Daniel. In fact Pastor Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman (2013) base their scripturally based weight loss plan on the book of Daniel. They combine the nutritional guidance of Daniel with the Scriptural instruction to stay in fellowship with one another, to help Christians find health and balance in their life (Warren et al., 2013). The foundation of his book comes from Daniel 1:8-17:

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (ESV).

God not only rewarded Daniel with physical youthfulness, but He also blessed him with wisdom and knowledge; both the mental and physical benefited from these sound dietary adjustments. What’s additionally wonderful about this story is that modern science continues to support that healthy eating increases mental soundness and clarity, as well as physical longevity and vitality (Partridge, 2012).

In terms of physical activity, I believe that much can be inferred through The Sabbath that was inspired by creation. God created the universe and all that it contains in six days and He then rested on the seventh day (Genesis 1:1-31, KJV). He commands His people to honor that work, rest cycle as well. He commands, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest” (Exodus 34:21). In fact, it is a powerful theme of the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament the concept of the Sabbath as being a “command” is clarified by Jesus when he states, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In my opinion, this is very thought provoking in terms of health. If the work, rest cycle commanded of us in Exodus is for us, then in what way? I would venture to argue that it is about our health. God as our creator knows exactly how much work we need, as well as rest. He gives us instructions because He knows what it takes for us to physically and mentally thrive. In fact, I have tested this theory in my personal life. When I am active and productive for six days, and commit to rest for the final day of the week, I have more energy, mental clarity, and my mood is elevated. However, if I do not take rest or I take too much rest, I feel fatigued, moody, and weak. In a society that tends to either be overly obsessed with productivity or shamefully lazy and lifeless, I believe following the instruction presented in Exodus 34:21, could produce dramatic improvements in our health.

Spiritual Health

Just as the Scripture consistently presses the importance of working hard and avoiding idleness, there is also great emphasis on balance and placing your energy on things of value. As Jesus is visiting the home of Martha, her sister, Mary, sits listening to Jesus speak, while Martha is busy working. Martha is upset with her sister and says to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself? (Luke 10:40, NIV), Jesus replied, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV). Nothing speaks louder to a generation of busy bodies. We work so hard at things that are fleeting because we are socially conditioned to do so, yet Jesus reminds us of what is important, Him. Stress is such an incredible burden on our physical, spiritual and emotional health. Sadly, our environment is the ideal breeding ground for stress. Stress causes worry, and worry is the antitheses of faith. An excellent way to combat the stress of life is to slow down, honor the rest, and make time to kneel at the feet of Jesus.

Emotional Health

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV). If life is a race, and we are the runners, then is it our Christian mission that drives us. An individual who spends time with The Lord will inevitable see that they are created for a great purpose. There comes a moment when you no longer ask God for more, but you being asking “what more can I do?” Surrendering brings freedom, and in that freedom a new level of emotional health is found. According to Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (NIV). The most emotionally healthy people are focused outwardly to God and to the services of others. For it is self-focus that often brings emotional stress. Perhaps the greatest freedom from self comes through fulfilling this Scripture: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).

Conclusion

Total health cannot be achieved by being only physically, emotionally, or spiritually healthy, but rather total health is found by devoting energy to all three areas. First, we must surrender our lives to God, and through that surrender we discover a fire that motivates to us to live our lives for Him and His children. In order to fulfill our purpose and make a difference with the time we are given, it is imperative that we take care of our temples and go on mission in our local communities as advocates for health. The corruption of the food, health, and fitness industries are ours to fix, and it is our duty to lead the way in this effort. A healthy Christian population is a powerful one capable of igniting a revolution and taking our nation back for Christ.

Love You Guys,

Alaina XOXO

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References

The Bible. (ESV).

The Bible. (KJV).

The Bible. (NIV).

Partridge, L. (2012). Diet and healthy aging. The New England Journal of Medicine, 367(26), 2550-1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1261051499?accountid=12085

Warren, R., Amen, D., Hyman, M. (2013). The daniel plan: 40 days to a healthier life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Depression :: Suicide :: The Reality of Choice

{If you gave me the recipe for perfection, I would get to the end and the lid would fall off my salt shaker, ruining the entire batch.}

The death of Robin Williams has forced us to have a conversation about something we don’t like to converse about: depression and suicide. We like to talk about how our aunt beat cancer, but we know better than to discuss the cousin with bi-polar disorder. We do this because we believe that cancer is not a choice, that it is a random, and terrible affliction of the body. Yet, when we dip our toes in the water of mental illness, we pull back with a quickness; the water is too murky, too scary, too hard to define. Let me define it for you: mental illness is not a choice, rather it is a random, and terrible affliction of the body.

Depression

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, how hard you workout, how much money you make, or how well you eat, it can find you and take you over as quickly as a virus. The person you were begins to shrink as the black room around you grows bigger and bigger. The people you love feel miles away, even as they surround you. Everything you used to enjoy tastes sour in your mouth. You want to do more. You want to be more. You fight so hard. Imagine a dark well with no way out, yet daily you scratch, claw, and climb, exhausting every ounce of energy. The world around you may see a lifeless body curled up in bed, but inside you are waging the hardest fought battle the world has ever witnessed.

You want those around you to understand, and to see what is happening to you as it really is, but yet many look at you as if you are weak and broken. They speak to you like you have a choice. “Just be happy” they say. “Just make yourself get up and get moving, you will feel better then.” I am sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. Truly, I wish it did. Remember this is a real physical disorder, there is no choice.

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I have seasonal affective disorder. I have had it all my life. It is a medical condition. It can be hereditary. In my case it is. It was passed to me by the strongest, most intelligent, physically healthy man I know. He is intelligent enough to follow the sun to Florida every winter, in order to sustain his mental health. I however, do not have the luxury (yet) to do so. It is difficult to say why our bodies are incapable of adjusting to the shorter daylight hours, and how that inability somehow translates into feeling like an annual walk through the depths of hell, but just because it’s odd doesn’t make it less real. The same can be said of any mental illness. Once again, this isn’t a choice, it is a random, terrible affliction of the body.

Suicide: {A Few Stories About Choice}

When someone commits suicide there are typically two reactions: empathy and sorrow -or- well he/she made that choice. Saying that someone chose to commit suicide is “technically” true. However, anyone who makes that argument is getting off on a technicality. I don’t really want to get off on a technicality, I rather dig deeper, dissect everything I know, and pray for the wisdom that surpasses human understanding. Suicide as simply a choice must be challenged, because our very basic human instinct says survive at all costs. We have seen this play out in history. There is very little a human being would not do to survive. So when someone commits suicide, we cannot stop at choice, we must press beyond that.

{The Choice To Love} One night, I was downtown Nashville with my mom, dad, and aunt. We had been listening to music and enjoying the evening. My dad went to go get the car, and I was standing look out on the edge of the sidewalk. There were so many people walking the streets. For a moment, my heart was completely open to all of them all at once. It was like the holy grail of empathetic capacity. I felt this incredible energy, a longing to be loved. Loved by anything, anyone…Then I felt such pain for this longing. I felt the pain of a thousand scars, and hurts, as they brushed past me on the street. Every story so different, but every longing so alike. And then God washed over me such peace. He said, “My grace is greater than all this.” He lifted this burden to control and heal right off my shoulder. The understanding was this: Just love them, I will do the rest.

{The Choice To Eat Dirt} One day, while my grandmother was pregnant with one of her three children, she walked outside, got on her knees, and began eating dirt. Sounds crazy, huh? Not so much actually. In fact, strange cravings are known to occur in pregnant women. For those precious nine months, your body is simply not your own. It is the dwelling of another human life, and they are calling the shots. Did my grandmother make the choice to eat dirt? yes, “technically” But why stop there? I want to know why she made that choice, don’t you? What overcoming force of nature pushed this woman to do such a strange and unusual thing. I wouldn’t be able to pay her enough money to do that now, so why then? Science suggests there was a mineral she was deficient in which led her to a source, the dirt. Point being, an imbalance or deficiency can be a powerful influencer of choice.

{The Choice To Starve To Death} I am a recovered anorexic. I began starving myself at 16 years of age. I have no memory of making the decision not to eat, the “choice” not to eat, if you will. I simply could not eat. My view of reality was heavily twisted and to this day I cannot pinpoint its onset. What I do know, is I was slowly committing suicide, while simultaneously wanting to live. The disease controlled my every action. Truly I tell you, I am standing here today with a healthy appetite for food and life, because my mother would not stop fighting for me. If this morning I made the choice to stop eating, I would fail by lunch time…I Mean FAIL! My body would overpower my choice. My mind would tell me that it is good to eat, that I need food to thrive. My body would feel weak and lifeless, supporting the logic of my mind. “Alaina, you need to eat!!!!” Ok, I will. Did I choose to eat? Technically, I did, but not without incredible nudging from every cell in my body. The very same cells, that once would not allow me to consume a bite! So which choice was actually made by me, or were they both made by me, or were neither made by me?

I love science and I believe in science. I believe God is the ultimate scientist and he cheers as we discover what He already knows. So when I think about boiling suicide down to a choice, I feel we are ignoring what we really know about choice (that it is complicated and influenced by many factors), and we are limiting what we can learn about a massive class of debilitating disorders. Can you imagine a world where we can discuss mental health issues just as confidently as we wave our pink banners through the month of October? What could we discover, and how many lives could be saved, if we opened our hearts and minds to the real possiblity that these disorders are not a choice, and the outcome of suicide may very well be much more than a choice as well. The question isn’t, “Is suicide a choice?” the question is “Are we doing all we can to create a safe and supportive world for the individuals struggling with this random and terrible affliction of the body?”

Please know I am not angry or disappointed with anyone for having a differing view of this from me. We are all on different paths and at different places in this journey. This is where I am now, and this is what I believe needs to be said. My only plea is that each of us test our capacity for empathy. May we challenge ourselves daily to ask God to open our eyes to the struggles of others, and then request he allow us to Love in a way that opens the door to His powerful work.

Further, for those of you who like homework. Choose a mental illness, locate a medical article on that illness and expand your scope of knowledge, then share that knowledge with others.

Love + Grace + Mercy,

Alaina

I Surrender All

Christianity, the only place where dying feels amazing. SAY WHAT!? Yes! With each piece of me that dies, He grows bigger. He consumes that part that is no longer there. Like a dam that is broken, his spirit floods an area once dry and fruitless, now surging with living water. I surrender, He breathes more life.

Is this concept not in direct opposition to what we are taught? Self, self, and more self. Fulfill yourself, have pride in yourself, protect yourself, indulge yourself. Yet once we have done that we are empty as quickly as we were full. Its like a gas tank with a leak-It’s never really full, impossible to maintain.

We work so hard to meet all our own needs that we forget there is someone who wants to do that for us. Someone who knows our needs better than we do. He is the one that we seek whether we recognize it or not. He is the relationship we think we need. He is the bigger home we want. He is newer car we are convinced will make us happier. He is that thing! What ever thing you are fixated on right now. What ever rabbit you are chasing. When you catch that rabbit, do you then need to catch a fox, then a wolf, then a bear? Does it ever end? Aren’t you tired?

I know I’ve been tired. Very tired. I can exhaust myself quite quickly doing  “everything right!” I’m giving, I’m loving, I’m helping, I’m praying. Wait! But am I surrendering? Am I relinquishing control? Am I letting God be God? Hmmmm….The answer is no.

Today I made a familiar request: Dear Lord, slay my flesh and may your spirit take complete control. You tell your story through me, you prepare my way, move my feet where you want them to move, and say the words you want me to say. I want to be less me, and more you.

This is not a prayer you make once. This is a prayer you have to make, over and over again in your walk. Ask yourself, AM I SURRENDERING??

I LOVE the fulfillment that comes through surrender. I love God’s faithfulness. He is the only thing that can fill my cup!!!

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26

As long as we are on this earth our flesh will pull us back to a need to control. Even while we are immersed in church and doing the right things we can get swept away by the natural tendency to fix a situation, figure something out on our own, or fight a battle we are not meant to fight–And we may be doing all those things with pure intentions and in the name of The Lord. YET, we have not fully surrender.

So are you doing “all the right things” but you find yourself weary and tired? Maybe its time to ask yourself: Have I surrendered this to God–Fully Surrendered?

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I surrender all, I surrender all. All  To YOU my blessed Savior, I surrender all.images-10

 

He is faithful to remind us…

{This is just a little something I posted on the facebook page! I really want you all to read the blog I posted below :)}

Incredibly vulnerable moment: Recently one of my friends was going on and on about the physical beauty of a former friend of mine. The more she spoke the smaller I felt, all while each of my flaws felt larger. “No one talks about me like that,” I thought. The enemy had found his opening, and he has been punching me in the gut with it ever since. Whispers, “all your fiends think your ugly. That’s why they tell you how nice you are all the time.” Punch, punch!
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
He prefers to push the same old buttons that have always worked, and even when God has strengthen you, he will test them for old times sake. This time it worked.
The mind of a recovered anorexic is no different then the mind of a recovered alcoholic. The bottle speaks to you each day, just like physical inadequacy can speak to me! We choose to hear a different voice instead! We press toward His voice everyday! He reminds you who you are.
This weekend I have been stalking the IF:Gathering, wishing I could have been there live and in person! Then I read this article and know for certain why God was drawing me there. He loves me and wanted to remind me once again of who I am. I am beautiful because I am His and that is all that matters and that is all that is eternal. I’m blessed to belong to a patient Heavenly Father, willing to constantly remind me of what He already knows. He will never stop working on uprooting the lies of my past, and I simply cannot thank Him enough for his comfort. I share this with you because I have a feeling other women need to be reminded too~perhaps for different reasons than my own! Please read this blog! You will be blessed and reminded of your unique beauty too!
{I do this because fitness is so much more than physical, and reaching a weight loss goal matters little if your mind is plagued with doubt. For the mirror can hold a very skewed imagine through ill eyes. And my eyes have been ill for most of my life! Only recently have I been able to see my beauty. I want to redefine health and wellness so it includes the mental and spiritual because it’s absolutely imperative for obtaining true health!}

Please check out Ann Voskamps most recent post:: Here is the link:

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/02/why-you-really-matter-an-anthem-for-women/

You Were Planned!

Do you ever feel without purpose, meaningless in the grand scheme of things? Often times it is that feeling that convinces us we are not worthy of self care or love, and that tends to manifest itself first in our health.

Believing that we are some how part of the “unworthy class” or the “useless sector”, is a common lie that holds us captive. It is a seed the enemy plants and can easily walk away from, knowing that we will do just fine to water it and grow it all on our own. Our culture even fuels this way of thinking.  Society paints a very narrow definition of success and if we don’t feel like our body or our bank account fit the part, its very easy to live in the lie that we are without purpose.

Here is the two part defense to that lie (courtesy of Paul):

1.”(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Do you see what Paul is saying here? Your worth, your very precious life is not special because you have accumulated more “points” than your neighbor and it’s not worthless if you have accumulated less. Societal norms almost never line up with God’s view. Your value is from God; it’s His gift to you. He designed it that way and specifically made it not about “works” so that “no one can boast.” Why do you think that is? Look at how we judge each other–By works, by appearances! He knew that, and wanted to free us from that bondage. That part of the verse is absolutely vital! Which leads to the second half…

2.”(10) For you are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

You are God’s handiwork! This verse talks about a plan that was made in advance which specifically includes you. Your role is vital. You are not some accident, that has forced God to whip up some way to fit you in. Imagine a massive puzzle, one that covers the entire universe. Imagine that nearly all the pieces are put together, but one piece is missing. Is it complete? No! And if you have ever made a puzzle, you know you are not satisfied until all the pieces are there. Just as the body of Christ is not complete without you. Don’t remove yourself from the masterpiece. Remember, You are God’s Handiwork!!!!

Notice the word “works” is used again, but it’s not just “works” by itself, it is “good works”.  This is no longer the worldly definition of “works”, this is the Godly definition of works. “Good works” are the works He created you to fulfill. They come with out pressure or the bondage of comparison thinking. These works come from faith, that you are loved and set apart by a God that planned you according to his eternal purpose. You cannot tally them up and cash them in–that’s the worldly definition. No, instead these flow from you, because they were created in you before you were even born. They were Gifted to you by your Father and no one else can fulfill what He wants to do through you, but YOU!

*Let God define your life and what true success is!

*Know you are worthy of good health and happiness!

*Have faith in His plan and submit to His timing (its better than the worlds)!

No matter how long you have been told you are unworthy, worthless, fat, stupid, or an embarrassment, its simply NOT true! There is a very real enemy that knows God wants to glorify himself in you, and he has put people and situations in your life to keep you in that defeated mindset. But you can stand up to him and that way of thinking with the POWERFUL, LIVING WORD OF GOD! Please comment below that you will commit to putting Ephesians 2:8-10 to memory and anytime you think you are worthless you will combat those thoughts with His Word! As someone who has been there, I promise your life will change!

I love you! And His Kingdom needs you! Your smile, your hug, your encouragement! You bring His light to the darkness! 

Take Care of Yourself!!!!

HI FROM ME AND MY BABY!!!!

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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Bending Without Breaking

During the winter it is normal for all of us to feel less energized and perhaps a greater need to rest. This comes from shorter days and an increased release of melatonin. In nature this seasonal shift causes many animals to hibernate, but us humans keep plugging along. We have an incredible ability to override the natural physiological responses to seasonal change, in order to adapt to a lifestyle that does not afford for hibernation. However, in some of us, that override is not there. For those of us with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), we are overcome by a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness, we may not sleep at night and feel tired all day. We feel antisocial and less interested in the activities we typically enjoy. There is no switch we can flip and that can be incredibly overwhelming and discouraging.

There is a single tree right in front of my kitchen window. It is surrounded by rose bushes. In the the spring, summer, and fall, the tree is covered in pretty leaves, with pretty red roses adorning its trunk. Then suddenly the cold will come, and in what feels like less than a weeks time, all the leaves are gone, and the beautiful rose bush is just a wicked cluster of thistles. The other day while walking back from the mail box, I stopped to stair closely at the tree. It looked painful to be honest. Its been cold here, and the bark seemed to be shrink in distress. I also noticed a thistly vine had grown all the way up the tree from the rose bush. The thorns were piercing it’s dark gray body. Ouch. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that tree and how it so accurately symbolizes how I feel. How can I feel so happy and radiant all year long, literally surrounded by roses, then rapidly, yet predictably, sink into such raw despair? SAD feels exactly like that tree looks. Completely stripped, totally raw, and utterly defenseless. The thorny vine that digs into its branches may have been there all year, but now it is exposed for everyone to see. There are no pretty leaves to conceal it. 

Yet, at the end of the day, this is nature right? This is God’s glorious design. With every season, turn, turn, turn….So if we can see this truth in nature and we can accept that this is a real physical struggle we must face, then how can we allow it to refine us and enlighten us in the midst of the pain? Hopefully I can help you with that….

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I have suffered from SAD my whole life, but only fully recognized its existence when I was diagnosed in 2010. Since then, I have discovered ways to make this time of year more bearable, and through that I have significantly shortened the peak period of my symptoms.

Here are my tips:

1. If you think you have it, get diagnosed and accept it. Prior to accepting it, I would fight it! I would spend months churning over this constant “what’s wrong with me?” question. It made me sick, and never allowed me to move on. Now that I know I have it, I can feel it coming on. I slow down and step into what’s to come with more acceptance and understanding.

2. Surround yourself with comfort~Cozy blankets, inspirational books, pretty paintings and pictures, redecorate a corner (it’s ok if it takes you a week to do it~your not your normal self remember)~Don’t feel bad for shutting some doors on messes; If your SAD is really bad you may only have the energy to keep one space tidy~Make that your sanctuary. Buy a few new baggy sweaters, wear them everyday. Light smell good candles and massage yourself daily with essential oils.

3. Light therapy. If you can afford a light therapy lamp, get one. If not, try to sit in an open window with the sunlight directly on your face for at least 20 minutes. If you can get outside, even better. Try to force a walk, but don’t kill yourself with guilt if you can’t! Let go of guilt!

4. Be ok with who you are now, and let go of who you are the rest of the year (He/She will be back and better than before). I am usually very outgoing and love being social. However, when SAD hits, if you aren’t in my enter circle…Hhssss get away! I literally do not have the energy to “put it on” for anyone. I’m the stripped down tree remember? And you know what? Thats ok! We have somehow convinced ourselves that we have to be perfect all the time, we don’t. We aren’t! I mean if nature has to follow this law, don’t you think its ok if we do too? This is your time to say NO. No, I can’t do lunch. No, I can’t have your kids over for a sleep over. But on the flip side, do say YES to dinner with your best friend or a cozy night over at your parents house. You need to be social but be social with people who you can be 100% YOU with.

5. Create your “new routine”. This kind of goes along with number 4. If you are a yes person like me, its time to incorporate a little No. Slow down! Shorten your exercise routine, focus on stretching, yoga, prayer, and balance. Don’t be afraid to cut out some clutter, and don’t feel bad about it. Put just a few “to-dos” on your list; One item for your health, one item for your home, and one item for your family. {don’t neglect your health, this will pass far more quickly with even 10 minutes of exercise a day~trust me}

6. Look inside and get quite. Nothing is without meaning. This is the most important item that helps me to embrace this time, and through this I grow. I always come out the other side with greater knowledge and understanding. There is a reason that tree in my yard is stripped down, and there is a reason I feel a connection to that tree right now.What does God do for us when we are stripped down? What can he reveal? More than when we are concealed right?

7. This too shall pass. Do not become overwhelmed. Soon you will feel alive again. Your hope will return and your energy will spring anew. Don’t be hard on yourself, now is the time to love yourself the most!

Think of the tree. Every year it grows, every year it perseveres. It doesn’t care about what everyone else is doing and what everyone else thinks about it. It has no clue that its my muse for this blog right now! Nope, all it does is follow the rhythm that our Creator set before it. It soaks up the sun and drinks the water. It will bear fruit again, and so will you and I. Be still and know!

Finally, I will leave you with this quote to think on:

“Be Still With God- To be idle sometimes is the part of wisdom. It is the needful rest and relaxation that Christ invited his disciples to share with Him when they were overstrained and worn out with labour. The best way to enjoy it is to get away from the crowd into some quiet place where the heart can be still with God in the open air. It is most sweet when it is shared by friends. Such idleness may be fruitful. It reaps ‘The harvest of a quite eye, that broods and sleeps on His own heart.'”~unknown

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2013

“As a tree is fertilized by its own broken branches and fallen leaves, and grown out of its own decay, so men and nations are bettered and improved by trial, and refined out of broken hopes and blighted expectations.” ~F.W. Roberston

I adore that quote, and if it rings true at all, my soil for the 2014 harvest is as rich as they get.

There are so many details about our 2013 that aren’t mine to share, but I can say I was stretched in every meaning of the word. I was stretched physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

In November I ran a half marathon that I had no business running. I recently had surgery that wouldn’t allow for any physical exercise, which left me weak and out of condition, then I went into the race suffering from an excruciating case of bronchitis. Not to mention, the temps in Tennessee were in the 30s and my pipes were Florida conditioned. I know this doesn’t seem like some huge feat, and honestly I didn’t make that big of a deal out of it. However, what I experienced out there was a big deal. That race was a 2 hour and 30-something minute synopsis of my year. I couldn’t breathe at times, my joints ached, I cried, I prayed, I KEPT GOING. I never stopped. At times I moved so slow that if my body didn’t appear to be running, you might have called it standing still. But I never stopped. Why? Because of God. I’m not kidding, it was all HIM! I should have collapsed somewhere around the guy who was smoking on the sidewalk (lol). But, I just kept asking Him, “Please Lord just carry me to the finish. Just push me. Keep pushing me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He was faithful, I finished.

Being completely weak and incapable, yet finishing the race solely by the strength of God was my 2013. 

I’m not the type of person to say “my life is horrible” just because my circumstances might be hard. In fact, I see a lot of beauty in the hard times. Not because of anything great about me, but because of God. He is always faithful in eventually revealing His purpose. Seeing that faithfulness comes from years of walking with Him. There is nothing He has sent me through, that was not intended to strengthen me and draw me closer to Him. In fact, in my pain, I am thankful. Thankful that he believes in me enough to challenge and refine me. When you ask God to give you wisdom, discernment, and greater responsibility within His kingdom, He doesn’t hand it all over like a winning lotto ticket. Instead, He puts you through bootcamp.

This year was about silence and prayer. I fought hard for one thing, Stephen’s health. Everything else felt stripped away from me, and I was asked to be silent. Any time I felt the need to defend myself, or try too hard, or fix something, I heard, “why aren’t I enough for you?”….”shhhh”

He demanded my attention. He revealed to me my pride. He showed me a mirror. He asked me to choose Him every day. He allowed me to walk through so many things all alone, so I would know that I am never alone. He asked me to release people and situations over to Him. There were days, in the midst of my most difficult storm, when I couldn’t eat, shower, or even change out of my robe. I just sat holding a picture of His face in one hand and His Word in the other. I had never been so incapable of basic functions, and He met me there. He showed me such beauty and love. Once again, asking me to be still, be quite. He wanted to be my sole provider and, for once, I allowed it.

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If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! CLAP! CLAP! I am so blessed. Why? Because God spent 2013 improving my sight. There are no guarantees in life. As a child you look ahead and see school, career, love, marriage, babies, family, a beautiful home, health, security. But those things aren’t guaranteed, and they aren’t promised to satisfy regardless. Sometimes you get sick, sometimes you can’t find a job. sometimes you can’t have kids, sometimes you feel alone, sometimes___________. But you always have a choice! You have a choice to trust in the God who created The Heavens and The Earth. You have a choice to relinquish control and KNOW all things belong to Him (your children, your spouse, your job- THEY ARE HIS! Not yours!). You have a choice to be infinitely grateful for every breath you breathe and every bite you take. You have a choice to Stop putting God in a box–assuming he can only do certain things or only involves himself in certain areas of your life–and Start seeing Him as the infinite, ever-flowing, never-ending source of love and power that He is. He knows everything about you, He lights every step you take, He protects you, He keeps you, He has great plans for you! Erase everything you know about “how the world works” and focus on that!

~Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
So here are my choices:
1. I chose to love my husband every day. Knowing that he is not perfect and I never expect him to be. He is the son of The Most High King. He is adored by God, and God is taking him on an extraordinary journey. One that I am so very fortunate to be apart of. I will not bring him down, rather I will always lift him up in prayer and with words of encouragement. I will do my very best to love him like Christ loves me, unconditionally.
2. I will not compare myself to others, yet believe wholeheartedly that God made me and set me apart for a specific, and divine purpose. He loves me and wants me to be ME!
3. I will believe that others love me too. I will not live in a state where I assume negativity, yet reside in positivity, knowing he is working all things for my good.
4. I will soak up every one of my german shepherd’s 10,000 a day kisses, even though I don’t need a bath. I will happily share the bed with my 100lb Rottweiler, who kicks and snores all night. I will sit for hours scratching my cockatiel’s head because he absolutely adores it. And I will thank God every minute for the gifts that they are. They are my family. They are the children he has chosen for me, for the moment that I am in, and I am unbelievably blessed by their lives.
5. I will be an artist. I will not be afraid to create all the crazy creations HE pours into my head.
6. I will love deeper
7. I will choose to trust Him in all things
8. I will live here and now, not then and there.
What are YOUR choices?
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures from the year 🙂
All of our babies~We welcomed a new feathery addition this year and the whole family has embraced him. Even my Dad got him a “welcome to the family gift”! When you were raised with pet ducks, pigs, and cows that sleep in the house, you don’t know where animal ends and people begin! LOL!
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My Faves~From Cold To Hot 🙂

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My Florida Family~When God takes you away from home, You find family on the road. Im thankful for all of them:

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And finally a shot from my mom’s visit for Christmas:

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HAPPY NEW YEAR YA’LL!!!! Choose Him because He Chose YOU!